Tips to Avoid Influencer Relationship Fraud


By now, it’s no secret that influencer marketing, when effectively executed, can translate into significant success and profit for businesses and brands. Unfortunately, said profitability has led to increased fraud and corruption within the industry. In a study about influencer fraud conducted by digital marketing expert Digiday, it was reported that a single day’s worth of posts on Instagram tagged #ad and/or #sponsored, contained more than 50 percent fake engagements. And out of 118,007 comments, only 20,942 were made by real people and not by bot accounts.

The issue of and concern over influencer fraud have become significant enough that various consumer and advertising watchdog groups and organizations have recently implemented a number of important rules and changes. One of the most significant, via the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), now requires influencers to disclose when a post is a sponsored ad in the first lines of their caption. This ensures that individuals don’t have to click the “read more” to know that the post is an ad since many people don’t read beyond the first lines of a caption.

The biggest challenge for many businesses is knowing how to spot and avoid fake influencers, i.e. individuals who falsely pad their follower count and misrepresent their social media presence. For the amount of money that can be made in the world of influencer marketing, it is very important that businesses do due diligence to ensure that they’re not throwing away thousands and potentially millions of dollars to fake influencers who will not positively impact their bottom line.  And in fact, may even end up causing damage to their brand reputation.

There are a number of ways for businesses to spot a potentially fake influencer. These are some of the most common and obvious red flags.

  • Sudden Significant Increase in Followers – This seems obvious enough right? If an individual had approximately 2,000 followers a week prior and always shown a steady increase of maybe two to three new followers a day and then out of the blue, their follower count increases to 10,000 or even 5,000 in a few days, that’s a red flag. Unless there was something significant that the individual did on their account, e.g. some type of popular promotion, a post that went viral, etc. it is simply not feasible that their follower count could increase that drastically. And that means they’ve likely purchased followers.


  • High Follower Count but Low Engagement Rate – An individual who has thousands and maybe even millions of followers but gets very low engagement for their posts, is not a very effective influencer. Now the likely explanation for this, of course, is that the individual has purchased followers and so most of their followers are really bot accounts. However, it is possible that an individual could have many followers but low engagement because maybe they were very popular at one time and gained a lot of followers but their influence had since waned, making their audience no longer engaged. Either way, this is not an influencer you would want to work with.


  • Type of Engagement – We all know that technology gets savvier and savvier every day and so there are sophisticated bot accounts that do comment on posts. However, the type and quality of the comments and engagement, in general, can be a red flag if businesses pay close enough attention. This includes repeatedly generic comments such as, “great post”, “awesome”, “looks great”, etc. If a potential influencer with millions of followers has 90 percent of generic comments in response to their posts, that’s a red flag. Also, if it is only generic comments, with no shares, retweets, etc., that is a major red flag.


  • New Account with Large Following – Unless an individual is some type of celebrity, e.g. actress, singer, etc. or related to a high profile individual, it is virtually impossible that they would have thousands of followers in less than a year. So look at the activation date of the potential influencer’s account. If their account is less than a year or even less than two years old but they already have thousands upon thousands of followers, that’s suspicious.


  • Credibility – Finally, the best way to avoid influencer fraud is to research the potential influencer and establish their credibility. For example, have they attempted in the past to mislead their followers by not fully disclosing that a post was an ad, have they lied about using certain products simply to get paid by the business or brand and mislead their followers, have they previously been caught buying followers, etc? As with every decision that affects your brand’s image and business profitability, it is imperative to thoroughly do your homework and research.

It is not impossible to spot fake influencers. However, as noted above, with technology getting more advanced every day, fake influencers are also getting savvier and savvier. In an industry that can net individuals thousands and even millions of dollars, unsurprisingly, corruption becomes a major issue.

It is up to businesses and brands to stay abreast of changes and be as savvy to all the tricks of the trade and of course, always do due diligence before trusting your product and brand to anyone. It is also important to remember that bigger isn’t always better.

Sometimes businesses get too caught up in the numbers game – i.e. this individual has a million followers, so they must be a more influential influencer than the individual with 5,000. Not true. In fact, AdWeek reports that campaigns driven by micro-influencers are 6.7 times more efficient per engagement than those led by more influential counterparts.

Influencer marketing is a worthy investment for businesses that can afford it. It is important to ensure that it’s done the right way, with honest and credible influencers.



Tips for Picking the Right Influencer for Your Influencer Marketing Strategy


It is no secret that influencer marketing has become one of the most popular go-to buzzwords in the industry, in the last few years. Mediakix has noted that “Marketers are discovering that one of the best ways to target audience groups, drive awareness and elicit engagement across social channels is by creating innovative advertising partnerships with select social media influencers.” Hubspot also noted that 71 percent of consumers are more likely to make a purchase based on a social media reference. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding – i.e. influencer marketing is big business and it works.

A few months ago, I wrote about the benefits of businesses and brands investing in influencer marketing. However, one of the most important factors in achieving a successful influencer marketing strategy is to have the right influencer. So with that said, here are a few tips for picking the right influencer for your influencer marketing strategy.

  1. Relevance – This is quite possibly the most obvious and most important factor in picking the right influencer for your business and/or brand’s influencer marketing strategy. And yet, many companies fail at it. Finding an influencer who is relevant to your business/brand means knowing and understanding what your goals and objectives are for your influencer marketing strategy in the first place, knowing and understanding your audience and knowing and understanding that it is not a one size fits all with influencers. There are many different types of influencers that all come with their own unique voice and influence.


  1. It’s Not Always about the Big Numbers – As noted in my previous blog post about the benefits of influencer marketing, while the number of followers a potential influencer has is important, it is not always the most important thing and sometimes is not an accurate indicator of their influence. An influencer’s follower count indicates the extent of the influencer’s reach. However, it doesn’t always indicate the level of engagement and that is key because engagement is a true indicator of an influencer’s power. It is of little use for a brand and business to have an influencer who has a million followers but they are inactive followers. That is, they do not comment, retweet the tweets, repost the images, engage with the influencer at all, versus someone who has 200,000 followers who actively engage with everything they post, i.e. sharing it, reposting it, commenting, etc.


  1. Credibility – Another one of the most important factors in picking the right influencer for your business and brand is the credibility of the influencer and/or influencers you pick. Just like the case of using spokespeople for your brand, it is important to vet any potential influencer to ensure that there has not been any questionable social media behavior by them in the past, e.g. attempts to mislead or defraud followers, etc.


  1. Past Relationships of Influencer – Piggybacking off the previous point, in researching any potential influencer for your business and/or brand, it is important to consider any past partnerships, relationships, etc. they have in the past that may conflict with your brand and your message. For example, have they been advocates for brands or businesses that do not align with the kind of message that your business stands for and represents? Were they loud advocates for one of your biggest competitors? Because if so, your audience will likely not trust their sudden change of heart in advocating for you. Not to mention that the influencer themselves may lose credibility with their audience and by that token, no longer be as effective.


  1. Know What Type of Content You Want to Create – Finally, tying back to your influencer marketing goals and strategies, it is important to know exactly what type of relationship you want with your potential influencer and/or influencers, before deciding on someone. For example, do you plan to hand over complete creative control to an influencer in advocating for your brand, or are you looking for someone to share content that you create or will it be a collaborative partnership where you and the influencer jointly decide on the content that will be shared? Knowing where you stand on these issues is key to picking the right influencer and avoiding a potentially negative experience and partnership.

Benefits of Implementing an Effective Influencer Marketing Strategy


Influencer Marketing has become one of the most buzzed about terms in the industry, in recent years. So what exactly is influencer marketing? In a nutshell, it’s focusing some of your marketing and promotional activities around key individuals who have significant influence over potential buyers. In other words, it is more or less “word of mouth” marketing and it’s really not that different from what public relations practitioners have been doing for years in cultivating relationships with key industry opinion leaders for earned media purposes.

However, the concept has become more ubiquitous in recent years in large part due to the internet and specifically, social media. The popularity of social media and by extension specific individual social media accounts has created a renewed interest and importance on the power of influencers. And the reality is there are really no downsides to implementing an effective influencer marketing strategy into your business plans as the benefits are numerous. Here are just a few of these benefits.


  • High ROI – According to a study conducted by Nielsen Catalina Solutions in conjunction with TapInfluence, Influencer Marketing can, in some cases, yield 16x higher ROI than an average digital marketing campaign.
  • Increased Trust & Credibility – Much like the use of thought leaders, the use of the right influencers can increase your credibility to your target audience, as well as increase their trust in your brand.
  • Increased Brand Awareness – This is obvious of course but still needs to be stressed that the successful implementation of influencer marketing increases your brand awareness, which of course can lead to an increase in leads, sales and ultimately your business bottom line.
  • Expand Brand Reach – Influencer Marketing also affords the opportunity to expand your brand reach, sometimes to an audience you may not have even previously been aware of.
  • Improve SEO – It’s very simple really. A sound influencer marketing strategy means greater opportunities and avenues for your brand to be mentioned and referenced on various platforms and online locations, which also means greater opportunities for showing up in organic search results.
  • Save Money – The return on investment, in some cases, from an effective influencer marketing strategy is far greater than the use of paid advertising and of course, a lot cheaper. According to a study from MDG Advertising, 70 percent of consumers want to learn about products through content as opposed to traditional advertising methods.

Of course, an effective influencer marketing strategy requires taking smart and specific steps. Here are a few tips for developing an effective influencer marketing strategy.


  • Define Goals & Objectives – It can never be stated enough. You should always have a road map for whatever type of campaign or project your business is implementing, which means there should also be clearly defined goals and objectives.
  • Define Your Audience – Along with defined goals and objectives, there must also be a clear identification of your audience and their needs.
  • Categorize Different Influencers – As with most things, there are different types and categories of influencers. SmartInsights have identified ten and they all came with their unique voice and influence. To develop an effective influencer marketing strategy it is imperative to identify which type of influencer or influencers would be most appropriate and valuable for your brand.
  • Build Influencer Relationships Organically – Most people do not take too kindly to feeling like they are being used – more importantly that someone only interacts with them because of what they can get out of them. And influencers are no different. Of course, there are some influencers who don’t really care, especially if they are being paid but typically, most influencers are put off by a request to promote a brand when they have had no previous interaction at all with the company. It’s best to start by building relationships with influencers, not unlike relationship building with your target audience. This will significantly increase the credibility and genuineness of said influencer promoting your brand.
  • Consider More Than Just Follower Count – Yes, of course, an influencer’s follower count is important. It does suggest the power of their reach and more importantly, their voice.  That being said, we know that follower counts don’t always accurately tell the tale. After all, followers can be bought and manipulated in other ways. Therefore, it is important to consider other factors such as an influencer’s engagement rate. How many comments are they getting for their posts, how many re-tweets, likes, etc? That is a far more accurate measure of just influential they are.